“For a real understanding of de Mazenod’s intention, the religious situation of France at that moment must be kept in mind.
All religious communities of men and women in France had been suppressed during the Revolution (1789-1799),
their houses and churches were destroyed or used for secular purposes,
the secular clergy was persecuted – murdered, imprisoned, driven into exile and hiding –
and all seminaries were closed for many years.
The effects of this continued to be felt long after the end of overt persecution.Thus the number of active priests between 1809 and 1815 dropped from 31,870 to 25,874.”
This is the context in which the Oblates were founded, and it explains something of the urgency that Eugene felt when he wanted to alleviate the suffering of the Church:
The Church, that glorious inheritance purchased by Christ the Saviour at the cost of his own blood, has in our days been cruelly ravaged. The beloved spouse of God’s only begotten Son is torn with anguish as she mourns the shameful defection of the children she herself bore. Christians, but apostates, and utterly mindless of God’s blessings, they provoke divine justice by their crimes… Such is the state of things brought about by the malice and corruption of present-day Christians that it can be truly said that the greater number of them are worse off now than was the gentile world before its idols were destroyed by the Cross.
Faced with such a deplorable situation, the Church earnestly appeals to the ministers whom she herself enrolled in the cause of her divine Spouse, to do all in their power, by word and example, to rekindle the flame of faith that has all but died in the hearts of so many of her children.
For two hundred years we have continued to respond to the same invitation, which we re-commit ourselves to again now
“The call of Jesus Christ, heard within the Church through people’s need for salvation, draws us together as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Christ thus invites us to follow him and to share in his mission through word and work.” CC&RR Constitution 1